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The Annual Conference… from the Project Leaders’ Mouth!

With the FoodCycle Annual Conference mere weeks away, we’ve been asking some of our Project Leaders what they enjoyed about last year’s conference and why they can’t wait to come again this year! Here, the marvellous Maria Giorda of FoodCycle LSE shares her favourite memories from last year, the key things she learned, and what drives her to dedicate so much energy to FoodCycle. 

What is your role at FoodCycle LSE and how long have you been involved?

I have been involved with FoodCycle LSE for 1 year and 8 months now but I have been Project Leader only for over a year now. I started off as Supplier Relations Coordinator but I am now one of the two Outreach Coordinators we have. My role consists in designing and implementing a strategy to get more people through our doors!

Concretely, I get in touch with charities supporting people with HIV, explain them what we do and how their guests can benefit from coming to our weekly meal. Sometimes we also manage to go and present directly what we do to charity’s service users.

Why did you decide to attend the conference in 2016?

When I attended the conference in 2016 I had just become involved as a leader after almost a year of volunteering in different projects across London. Each project has its own personality, very much tied to the community within which it is located and I was super excited about understanding what kind of ‘personalities’ projects outside of London have.

What is your favourite memory from the conference?

Last year we had a workshop about providing nutritious meals to our guests, during which we asked to order some vegetarian food items based on their protein content. I love the memory of our collective surprise in finding out that Mozzarella scored the highest in protein.

During our sessions, we always need to show volunteers that we know what we are doing, so it was just incredibly funny to see twenty project leaders looking at each other in astonishment and shrugging.

What new things did you learn at the conference?

Apart from the fact that mozzarella has more proteins than beans? I think that what really stuck with me after the conference was the feeling that if we worked as a team we could do anything.

I heard amazing stories of projects catering to weddings, selling jams and expanding their project into more than one venue, that really made me realise the importance of working together for something that matters.

I met in the past people that got involved with charities because it was ‘the right thing to do’ or even because they liked the feeling that comes with having a position of authority. However, the one thing that unifies all successful FoodCycle project is that they do what they do knowing that it will benefit their community.

The conference is also about connecting and meeting other FoodCyclers. Who did you connect with last time and what was the result?

I met so many inspiring project leaders last year! The most inspiring one was a girl from FoodCycle Peterborough facing the challenge of getting volunteers! At FoodCycle LSE we may struggle to get more guests but we can rely on a strong network of LSE students as volunteers. This girl was telling me about how in Petersborough she mainly relied on elderly people to help, some of whom did not have access to the Internet. Her experience made me realise how important it is for us to be inclusive even when it comes to volunteers’ recruitment.

What are you most looking forward to for this year’s conference?

Getting a real motivation boost!! It has been a fulfilling but challenging year for FoodCycle LSE, our guest numbers have not been increasing regardless of our efforts and we lost some amazing project leaders so I am really hoping that, just like last year, the conference and meeting so many amazing volunteers will give me that energy needed to take us forward in the next year!

And finally… what makes you tick! Why do you give your time to FoodCycle?

The reasons why I volunteer with FoodCycle change as time goes by 😊. I started volunteering after living for two months in Senegal, where the amount of food waste is close to zero, but children still search rubbish bins in the hope of finding some food.

As I volunteered more and more, I realised FoodCycle gave me the chance to meet new people in a constructive environment, where we were doing something for someone rather than standing around ‘networking’. Moreover, I found out I was actually pretty good at cooking and FoodCycle gave me the chance to learn some amazing new recipes and cooking techniques!

Once you become a project leader you can’t spend as much time cooking; you have to make sure everything gets done on time! However, it is really rewarding to make a session special for volunteers and guests alike, and bring together people that would have otherwise never met.

The reason why I now keep giving my time to FoodCycle is that I see it as family and, no matter what, you give time to your family!

Fancy attending this year? Registration closes on Friday 29th September. Sign up here! 

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